With approximately 58 percent of the world’s 335 turtle species threatened with extinction, turtles are the most endangered vertebrate group in the world. The Bruce Museum in Greenwich invites people to help map the distribution of turtles with the Connecticut Turtle Atlas Citizen Science project.
The unassuming turtle is seldom on the mind of most people, but they are a top priority for many conservation biologists. Turtles can play key ecological roles, serving as both predators and prey, contributing to the cycling of nutrients, and acting as seed dispersers.
Anyone interested in turtles or the outdoors can participate, including families, children, individuals, and classrooms. Participants in this Bruce Museum Citizen Science initiative will collect data on all turtle species found throughout the state as they help scientists track turtle distribution and abundance. The project runs from April through November on an annual basis.
The state of Connecticut is home to twelve native turtle species that inhabit our woodlands, wetlands, and even the waters of Long Island Sound. The primary threats to turtles in the state include habitat loss and traffic-related highway mortality. Worldwide, turtles are negatively affected by threats such as collection for food and pets, disease, and changing climates, as well as habitat loss and fragmentation.
The goals of the Bruce Museum’s Connecticut Turtle Atlas include developing a public understanding of turtle ecology, promoting ways in which people can help turtles, and gathering research-quality data for use in publication and sharing with scientists.
Participants will learn about the wonderful diversity of turtles and their benefits to the ecology. No experience is required, all that is needed is access to a smart phone, camera, or a computer with the iNaturalist.org platform. Using the iNaturalist smartphone app, volunteer scientists can gather information that will be used to map distributions, identify important habitats, locate areas of nesting abundance, and detect roadways with high traffic-related mortality. In addition, the Bruce Museum will provide opportunities to assist with other aspects of turtle research and fieldwork.
Citizen Science harnesses the passion of the public to become amateur researchers, which helps not only with the gathering of important data on a wide scale but also with inspiring a new generation of future scientists. Citizen Science provides fun and interesting projects with real-world implications, breaks down barriers between society and scientist, opens discussion on STEM subjects and current events, shares research outcomes, and acknowledges participants’ important contributions.